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Market Scene

Market Scene
signed with artist's monogram and dated '1965' (lower right)
oil on canvas
98 x 130 cm. (38 1/4 x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1965
Acquired directly from the artist by Mr. Alex Papadimitriou

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Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

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Lot Essay

Celebrated as Indonesia’s foremost modern maestro, Affandi is recognised for his creation of a signature style of painting and his unique choice of subject matter. A humanist at heart, Affandi believed in the universal human experience above all else and dedicated his life’s practice to capturing the essence of the human condition in his paintings. This determination to depict life truthfully set him apart from the romanticised depictions of Indonesia of the popular Mooi Indies and Pita Maha styles that were favoured by the foreign patrons of the arts.

Market Scene (Lot 34) is a fascinating view of daily life, as it depicts the momentary madness that ensues when a drift of black pigs runs amok in the market. Affandi conveys the pleasing warmth of the tropics in cacophonous swirls of sunny yellow, deep emerald, and earthy shades of brown, while the offending animals are peppered around the scene in a stark shade of black. A bundle of struggling bodies curl up behind a woven cage in the lower right of the foreground, suggesting that their fellow kin might have escaped from the same confines. Amidst the pandemonium, the villagers scramble into action with each one catching a piglet in their arms – the lady in the middle balances the piglet above her head, while the woman to her left clutches the struggling pig to her chest. The mischievous animals may have been the responsibility of a single villager, yet the entire market instinctively launches into action to contain the chaos, perfectly embodying the spirit of gotong royong, or neighbourly camaraderie.

Affandi avoided omitting the candid and ugly, choosing instead to frame these untainted moments as crucial to our understanding of human nature. Spontaneity was crucial to the success of his best paintings and he would trust only his sight and intuition, insisting on being physically and emotionally present in every moment recorded on canvas. Painting plein air in order to maintain the purest expression of the sudden frenzy, he lays his canvas on the dirt ground and works straight onto its surface with his bare hands, darting his eyes up from his makeshift workspace to catch glimpses of the flurry of movement while attacking the fresh paint with equal vigour. With his palms, he spreads the paint outwards and across the canvas, powerfully suggesting speed and movement through his own gestures, while his fingers dig deep into the thick lines of tubesqueezed paint, guiding the pigment to reveal the bare canvas beneath the raw, unmixed colours, breathing life into the figures.

While Affandi’s works are often compared to the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, perhaps for his heavy impasto and unblended colours, the former’s works are far more expressionistic in their execution and thus much closer in spirit to the works of Gutai artist Kazuo Shiraga. Shiraga’s use of his hands and feet allowed him to transmit his bodily energy directly onto the painted surface, with the paint providing a record of his unhindered actions. Famed American Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock similarly favoured the spontaneous and gestural in his free-formed expression of his inner turmoil. However, while Shiraga and Pollock worked in the absence of visual stimuli, Affandi’s strength lies in his ability to grasp the fleeting emotive quality of a scene in real life through his strokes and motions. Despite the speed at which the market scene unfolds, Affandi’s hands make quick work of the canvas, deftly translating the energy of the moment into its fullest expression – each quick and spontaneous line smoothly pulled to its very fullest or coiled tightly into itself, displaying Affandi’s true mastery of his technique in his sure and steady execution of a split-second instance.

Unlike early renditions of the village market that appear like well-composed postcards, Market Scene vibrates with the unrestrained excitement of a participant, fully immersed in the sudden commotion. The visual perspective of the painting differs from his usual market scene compositions which offer a further viewpoint of the entire scene. Affandi clearly illustrates his mastery of the canvas medium, with the paint lines spread wildly past the edges of the canvas, suggesting a physical closeness to the subject matter while enveloping the viewer in the chaotic scramble. The present lot is exemplary of Affandi’s commitment to the honest expression of human nature, as he employs his unrivalled technique in his depiction of unglamorous village life, ultimately illustrating the innate kampung spirit that binds the Indonesian people together.

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